The Subtle Art Of Cat-To-Cat Communication

| Published on December 25, 2015

Cats have a complicated way of communicating with each other and many aspects of it are so subtle that we’d never know how much information is being conveyed. If we know what to look for, though, we’re more likely to be able to spot problems before they get out of control. This is particularly helpful in a multi-cat household, where tension can spiral out of control quickly.


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After kittenhood, cats rarely meow to communicate with each other (that’s usually reserved for communication with humans), but they do take advantage of a wide range of vocalizations to communicate happiness, anger, and other emotions. Purrs, hisses, growls, and yowls are all fair game in the cat-to-cat communication game, and slight variations in pitch, intensity, and volume can reflect a cat’s specific emotions or needs.


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Body language
Body language is one of the most subtle ways cats communicate with each other, and it can be very easy for us to miss critical information if we’re not paying close attention. The tiniest movement or positioning of a cat’s eyes, ears, or tail can give critical information about her mood. Similarly, the posture or stance she takes in the presence of another cat can very clearly communicate “come closer” or “back off”. To learn more about your cat’s subtle body language, read our article 7 Ways Your Cat Communicates Without Speaking.


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Physical interactions
Physical interactions are very closely related to body language, separated only by body contact. These types of communicated are usually the easiest for us to notice and understand. There’s no mistaking what it means when one cat attacks another or when your two cats are curled up together in a sunbeam. Not all physical interactions are easy for us to figure out though. For instance, when we see one cat grooming another we usually assume it’s a sweet sign of affection. You may be surprised to learn that sometimes a cat will groom another cat to show dominance!


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Scent marking
Scent marking is a very popular communication tactic between cats because the simple act can give loads of information. When we hear the term “scent marking” many of us think of urine marking. While that’s certainly one form of scent marking, it’s not the only one. Cats also mark with the glands located in the pads of their paws and in their cheeks. The scents can tell other cats basic information like when the mark was left and which direction the cat was moving when the mark was left, as well as communicate a claim on territory, to announce a presence, or to threaten another cat.

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